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The Empty Promise of "Waivers" from Trump's Muslim Ban

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Empty Promise of "Waivers" from Trump's Muslim Ban

"As legal battles over the Muslim ban make their way up to the Supreme Court, reports from U.S. embassies are casting doubt on a central legal defense to the ban’s constitutionality: individualized waivers. There were 8,406 visa applications from countries subject to the ban as of February 15th. Only two applicants were granted waivers. That’s a success rate of 0.02 percent. While the State Department is now reporting that a hundred waivers have been granted, the success rate is still minuscule. Such a high rate of refusal shows the futility of the waiver process and only confirms the Fourth Circuit’s recent finding that the ban was motivated by religious animosity, not national security.

The current iteration of President Trump’s Muslim ban indefinitely prohibits the citizens of six Muslim-majority countries — Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — from entering the United States. The government has repeatedly touted the plan’s supposedly individualized, case-by-case waiver process in defending its constitutionality. But the numbers above, along with other recent reports, suggest that the process is not meaningfully available, leading to mass visa denials for hopeful would-be immigrants and visitors who appear to have ample good reason for coming to the United States under the terms of the waiver program.

Samerah Alawdi and three of her children were among those denied a waiver this past December in Djibouti. Samerah’s husband is an American citizen, and she has four children born in Michigan. It is difficult to think of a more suitable candidate for a waiver – the Trump administration specifically identifies children and those with family in the United States as appropriate waiver recipients. But the Alawdi family did not receive a waiver, and they are not alone. There have been reports of an American father unable bring his 10-year-old daughter to the United States for critical medical care; of an American son unable to reunite with his Iranian father, a celebrated academic suffering from various medical conditions; and of an Iranian mother unable to visit her son working as a researcher for the National Institutes of Health. There are thousands being denied access to the United States through a waiver program that the government contends is evidence that their Muslim ban is not discriminatory..."

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